Magnificent Mediterranean!

It was Alyona’s birthday yesterday and we had a small party at the office .Jyotsna , Alyona’s younger sister had come down with her son Manit for the party. The rest of the day went in meeting. Rajeev Matta, COO of our company is working and finalising the things for the launch of The Yellow Chilli, Ahemdabad which is scheduled next week .

It was just a week ago a thick cloud cover due to volcanic eruptions in Iceland disrupted air traffic big time in UK and Europe, our plans for a holiday in Portugal are still not fixed. But I am sure it will happen and we will enjoy the joys of Mediterranean food for a short while.

It is funny how everyone raves about the Mediterranean diet but the fact is that there is actually no formulated ‘Mediterranean’ diet! Well, the word Mediterranean actually covers an enormous variety of restaurants, cooking styles, ingredients, and ethnic influences. But what else can one expect because there are at least 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea! Diets vary between these countries and also between regions within a country. Many differences in culture, ethnic background, religion, economy and agricultural production result in different diets. But the common Mediterranean dietary pattern has these characteristics:

  • high consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds. The large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet play a number of roles in protecting the human body. Fruits are high in fibre and rich in nutrients that help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Among the protective substances are carotenoids and vitamins C and E.
  • olive oil is an important monounsaturated fat source. More than half the fat calories in a Mediterranean diet come from monounsaturated fats (mainly from olive oil). Monounsaturated fat does not raise blood cholesterol levels the way saturated fat does.
  • dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts, and little red meat is eaten. They have plenty of access to the sea, so fish is found in plenty on the plates. That means they are getting loads of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acid
  • eggs are consumed zero to four times a week.
  • wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts.
  • grains are had in substantial quantities like in baguettes, pasta, polenta, couscous…all of these complex carbohydrates translate into loads of low fat energy.

But when you step out to eat in a Mediterranean eatery, do not think all you have to is reach out for the napkin, look ready to eat and immediately a heart friendly platter of vegetables and pasta will appear! A conventional restaurant meal can carry loads of hidden fat so understand that having pasta and salad in not really an assured low fat meal. But what you can do is request them to give the sauce on the side. And the grated Parmesan too, and even the salad dressing on the side. That way you could probably have a little control! Another popular Italian order is that of lasagna. Well, this too has some dark interiors! It is a high fat cheese dish with little pasta. Understand that having lasagna is like having equivalent calories of two huge burgers. One more much loved article is the garlic bread. It is typically sopping with oil or butter. Instead order plain bread, and if you must, apply a thin smear of butter on it. Just as yummy. Well, what about pizza? From the crust you get carbohydrates, from the cheese you get protein and calcium and from the sauce and vegetable toppings you get vitamins A and C. Most pizzas get a respectable 25 to 30 percent of their calories from fat. But be careful, add a meat topping and the fat count jumps above 40 percent!

But all things said and done, why not make these things at home because they are easy to dish out !

Chunky pasta and vegetable stew, Pan Pizza, Vegetable Lasagne.

Till I write again

Sanjeev Kapoor.

Make your own convenience store

A few days ago I had discouraged you from frozen foods and many of you have asked me you do not want to as the attractions are too many in the malls plus the convenience of cooking. We do expect a lot from frozen foods, don’t we? This is got me thinking and now as we turn more health conscious we can expect to see frozen foods that are low in calories, low in fat content and have less sodium. But one word of caution. You cannot always judge the frozen food by its cover. Not even by the delicious picture that goes on the cover or the catchy name on it.

Well, one simple rule while shopping. Read the label. Check the total calories. See the portion size. They may be smaller than what you expect them to be. This is a smart way used by the packagers to keep fat levels down. Look for the percentage of calories from fat, not on the number of calories. Often fewer calories mean less food, not necessarily less fat. This is what we mentioned earlier about smaller portion sizes. They might put in some type of sauce to make a mini meal look complete but you will have to rustle up a salad and finish off with a piece of fruit to satisfy the appetite. Some prepackaged preparations come with handy sachets of readymade sauces. Skip this product and skimp on the calories and sodium. We have to be more realistic about this.

Look out when shopping for frozen eats! Here’s the what and why:
Read the ingredients: Some cases meat might not be all meat. It might be mixed with soy or wheat products. This makes it lower in fat. The taste might not be different but the portions certainly become heartier. If the label says it is a cheese dish and the list of ingredients reads cheese way down on it then you know this is cheating hence forget picking it up. It is safer to buy a product with generous amount of low fat cheese than buy something that cheats.

Always supplement your frozen meal with lots of either frozen or steamed vegetables which are quick and convenient. Remember the recommendation is to have five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. As for desserts, you could indulge in fruit yogurt etc but remember they are still sweetened with sugar and can be high in calories.

Why not make your own freezer work wonders for you in the convenience department?

Happy cooking
Sanjeev Kapoor.

Tips on hydration

The other day I heard Alyona pressing Kriti to have more water to drink. This got me thinking. So how much water is enough for you? Or better still how much is needed on a daily basis? Well, I know for sure that an average healthy individual should consume 1500 – 2500 ml of water per day for proper functioning of the body and to prevent dehydration, constipation, urinary infection etc and this requirement is based on the dietetic habits, climate and physical activities. With meals, a moderate amount will not dilute the digestive juices but do not drink copious amounts. As summer has fully embraced us hydration at the right moments becomes more and more important for an active person. If you are travelling, ensure some extra glasses of water a day before and on the day of the trip. While in flight, keep in consideration the low humidity levels, so have one glass of water for every hour in the air. Summer sears so needless to say, as the temperature outside rises, the water intake should increase! In fact, if you know you are going to be in the warm outdoors for long, spruce up with lots of water. Even summer colds and flus can lead to dehydration. Be careful because it does not help the sickness. Drink more water and fight the germs. You’ll get better sooner. And yes, the cup that cheers, that is tea and for some coffee – these liquids brighten the mood but they are sure dehydraters. For every cup of beverages like these, drink up a glass of water.

Why not also eat foods that have a high water content? Watermelon has the highest content of water (95.8%). Another good food is cabbage. Milk and fruits have around 70 % whereas solids like bread, eggs, fowl, rice, wheat range between 10 and 50 %.

Here are some recipes, clean and light, but brimming with full flavour. So enjoy and know that your body is in the process of hydration!

Mango Panna, Homestyle mixed vegetable soup, Cucumber Koshimbir

Be cool.
Sanjeev Kapoor